Neddy Tanga is a second year Industrial & Manufacturing Student at Harare Institute of Technology, Harare, Zimbabwe. She tells us of her ongoing journey as an engineering student, and what encourages her to stay in an engineering career. She can be found on LinkedIn.
As we celebrate International Women in Engineering Day, I choose to reflect on my ongoing journey as an engineering student.
Being an engineering student is like a roller coaster. There are mixed emotions and not being really sure whether you are in the right engineering field or not.
I recall my first day in an Industrial & Manufacturing Engineering class and feeling intimidated and discouraged as I observed the classroom full of mostly boys. I also remember the first practical at the departmental machine workshop for a Workshop Technology class. Most of the boys, in the class, were quite disbelieving and derogatory in my ability to have the stamina or aptitude to get through the lesson. We have had a few disheartening experiences. During a group assignment, one boy decided to leave the group with all four of ladies because of his belief that ‘ladies perform badly in technical courses and we would ultimately make him fail’! It was really devastating. I overcame it by telling myself that “I can get whatever I want as long as I put my mind to it, regardless of the circumstance”. We passed that group assignment quite well, by the way. Fast forward, a year and half later, I am still here and steadily progressing with my studies.
My current class comprises four ladies out of thirty one students. I have realized that, at the university, both female and male students get the same knowledge and are given the opportunity to get great results. I always tell myself that nothing can stop me, except myself. Only I, can be my enemy.
I have been blessed with family who always encourage me to fulfill my dreams and passions, despite the opinions of others, so I always keep my head held high!
We also have several female mentors in our department who understand us at a personal level. At some point when I had problems with friends, they encouraged me to always focus on what I want. I used to be mocked by the people around me, because I would go to the library every day. I was very frustrated and I thought of giving it up, but my mentor told me to always remember that ‘those people who do not do Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering will never understand your load and what you go through. Just because they condemn it, does not mean you are doing the wrong thing. Do what is best to keep your grades up.’ I learnt that not everyone will understand what you do and you do not have to waste time explaining yourself.
Above all, I would say the following to aspiring engineers.
First, it is demanding but everything is affected by your attitude and your way of thinking. If you tell yourself that you can, then, you surely can do it.
Second, self-motivation with no action is nothing in this field. You have to make sacrifices because as much as it is demanding, it is not difficult, but it needs commitment.
Third, remember what you want and always aim to achieve great results. My high school teacher used to tell me that the journey of being an engineer is not for the capable ones but for the ones who have the passion and determination to succeed. You are your own distraction! If you always listen to negativity, you will never be able to achieve what you want. Always tell yourself that you CAN and surround yourself with people who believe in you and who have similar vision.
Fortune favors the brave, work now and enjoy the benefits later. I continue to grow in the Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering field. The program has taught me a lot and the only way you can achieve what you want is by working very hard, self-motivation and always seeking advice from mentors and experts.
So go make a difference!
Happy International Women in Engineering Day!